Friday’s Reflections for the Preacher’s Wife: Giving Advice and Keeping Confidences

Preachers and their wives have what is both a blessing and a burden of being in the people helping business.  Most gospel preachers and their wives do what they do because they feel compelled to help people. Not only is there a desire to help people with the eternal side of life, but most care about the day to day struggles of people we have come to know and love, as well as strangers that come our way asking for help.  Some may assume that preachers and their wives have been given some extra measure of wisdom. Such is not the case. Whatever worthwhile wisdom we have to offer is directly related to our knowledge of the Scriptures and our ability to make practical application. We must be diligent Bible students, so that when people come to us for help, we are able to offer something more than our mere opinion.  But isn’t that what every Christian should do? 

When people come to the preacher and/or his wife, they often need to discuss matters of a confidential nature.  I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of being able to retain confidences. To say this adds an extra weight of responsibility is a huge understatement.  A preacher and his wife can certainly identify with the apostle Paul when he said “Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches” 2 Corinthians 11:28. What church members often don’t realize is that they are not the only ones who have come to share their burdens.  Sister so-and-so might have asked to talk the day before, and tomorrow Brother so-and-so has an appointment to share his woes.  How many times have we laid awake at night, praying, pondering and sometimes agonizing over the pain of others and not knowing just how best to help?

When it comes to giving advice and keeping confidences, I have a few tidbits to share:

  • Listen.  Be careful not to jump the gun and prematurely decide that you know what the solution to the problem is.  Often times people aren’t necessarily looking for a solution, perhaps because there is none; they simply need someone to listen and perhaps a shoulder to cry on. When decisions do need to be made, try to help in such a way that the person is not simply being told what to do, but with wisdom and guidance from the Scriptures, they come to their own realization about the best course of action.
  • Avoid gossip.  Not only do we need to refrain from gossip, we should not allow others to gossip to us. Sometimes there is a fine line between helping someone through a situation vs. merely being used as a sounding board to gripe.  One way to differentiate between the two is to determine whether or not the person is looking for a plan of action. Do they intend to work on resolution, or do they merely want to vent?  If their problem involves a grievance with another person, ask if they’ve already  gone to the person in order to work through it.  If not, kindly point out their biblical obligation to go to the person first.  “And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” Matthew 18:15.  Unfortunately, there are some who have less than sincere motives when they want to discuss an issue with you, wanting to draw you into the fray, and will attempt to get you to take their side.  Be discerning and be on guard.
  • Establish Boundaries.  It is very important that we, as Christians, do not allow ourselves to be put into a situation which could compromise our reputation or one in which we would be tempted to behave inappropriately.  As a woman, it would not be appropriate to meet alone and privately with another man under the guise of counseling.  For that matter, a preacher should never meet with another woman alone.  If he needs to provide counsel, then he should make sure that someone is nearby, with his study door open, or better yet, he is accompanied by his wife.  There is a good book available entitled Hedges, by Jerry B. Jenkins (not a member of the Lord’s church) which deals with safeguards that ought to be taken to protect your marriage.
  • Team Work. There are times when you or your husband will counsel someone without being together. It is a good policy to ask the person if they mind you sharing the situation with your husband or your husband asking if he can share the information with you. This can serve a couple of purposes.  First, especially when dealing with more serious issues, it is always good to be able to bounce ideas off one another.  Sometimes a different perspective from the opposite sex can provide further insight. Second, this presents a unified marriage to those with whom you counsel.
  • Respect the law.  From time to time there are circumstances that are, to put it plainly, horrid.  As a preacher’s family, sometimes we are privy to sordid sins that are also against the law.  If someone wants to take you into their confidence and you detect that they are going to reveal some sordid details, be clear that if someone else has been violated, or a crime committed, you will tell appropriate authorities. (That does not mean that you will discuss it freely with other church members.) It is not fair to you to be put in the position of keeping an unlawful, sinful secret. Furthermore, it is not in their soul’s best interest.
  • Take a break.  Sometimes the weight of other people’s problems becomes quite heavy.  If we are not careful, we can allow the problems of others to drain us.  We have to be very careful not to get so involved and distraught that we are not able to care for our own families or our own mental health is compromised.  It’s easy to get sucked into other people’s drama, but we need to keep our heads.  Don’t let the crises of others consume you.  You and your husband need to set boundaries so that at certain times you agree that the “problem” will not be discussed.

Although these suggestions were written with the preacher’s wife in mind, in reality they are principles that are applicable to all Christians. Paul instructed Titus that aged women “may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed:” Many times we expect a young inexperienced preacher’s wife to provide counsel when, through no fault of her own, she is simply not equipped to advise.  Let’s not overlook an often untapped resource –  older women in the congregation, who have weathered a few storms of life and have proved to be “seasoned Christians.”

 

January 13th, 2012|Categories: The Preacher's Wife|Tags: |6 Comments

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Friday’s Reflections for the Preacher’s Wife: Are You a Help or a Hindrance?

Within the church there are many faithful, godly men.  They have various means of employment for supporting their families. Although these men are engaged in secular employment, they are not inferior because of such.  We NEED men in these places to be seen as a “light on the hill”.  But still, their employment is secular.  The preacher, however, is in a unique position, in that his means of livelihood and his spiritual life are tightly entwined together.  Because of the occupation of our husbands, we as preachers’ wives also find ourselves in a very unique place in life.

Before becoming a full-time minster, my husband was employed as an electrician.  I strove to be a good help-meet to him by making sure he had clean clothes to wear to work, feeding him a good breakfast before he headed out for the day, a tasty lunch for him to take to work and having a meal ready when he came home from work. His work days were rather long and so I would try to do what I could to lighten his load at home. I wanted him to tell me about his work, so that I could better relate to what he was doing throughout the day.

When George transitioned from electrician to preacher, my role as his help-meet took on a whole new meaning.   As an electrician, I never recall my husband asking me advice about how to wire this or that, but I can not count the number of times he has asked for my input on sermons he was preparing.  He never needed me to accompany him to his electrical job (although on occasion I did, just so I could spend the day with him), but there have been many times when we’ve gone visiting church members or on Bible studies together. He never asked me to critique his electrical work, but you can be sure that he’s asked me to proofread articles, letters, etc.

There are times in the life of a preacher when duty calls – literally.  A phone call comes and he must unexpectedly run out the door, perhaps because of a dying church member or a tragedy in a church member’s family.  Maybe a woman needs counsel and because it would be inappropriate for your husband to meet her at the church building alone, you must either go with him or  she must come to the house.  You had other plans, but for his sake, you will change them.  There are many other examples, but I think you get the picture.  How do you, as a preacher’s wife, react to these situations?

On the other hand, preachers must learn to balance work and family.  Too often we hear about a preacher whose wife left him or his children have left the faith.  Is it possible that preachers contribute to such tragedies by failing to minister to the needs of their own families?  The congregation for whom the preacher works does not own the man.  They do not have the right to dictate what he does during every waking hour.  Sometimes he needs to say “no”.  His family needs to see that they are a priority in his life, and every once in a while, in an ever so gentle way, the preacher’s wife may need to remind her husband that his undivided attention is needed at home.

Some preachers’ wives are significantly detached from their husband’s work.  She has her own life, her own job and is consumed with her own affairs. However, the preacher’s wife who chooses that course not only fails to be a help-meet to her husband, but she is inviting trouble into her marriage.  When one is in the business of ministering to souls, there is felt the added weight of responsibility. The preacher bears many burdens upon his shoulders and he, in turn, needs someone to help him bear his burdens.  Yes, preachers are human, too. If we not there to comfort and console him, he will be tempted to look for for his needs to be met elsewhere.

There are also some preachers’ wives who hinder their husbands because of their unwillingness to “bloom where they are planted.”  By this I mean that they are unwilling to be happy if they must move away from their preferred locale.  There are preachers who are fortunate enough to be able to stay in the same place for many years, close to family and long-time friends. Others, due to various circumstances, may have to move far from home.  A preacher’s wife must learn how to be content, regardless of locale. Flexibility and adaptability are a must. If a preacher’s wife habitually complains because she does not like where they are living, not only will her relationship with the members of the congregation be strained, but she will hinder her husband’s effectiveness.

The preacher’s wife has her work cut out for her.  I’m not speaking of work that a congregation thinks she should be doing “because she is the preacher’s wife”, as if they’ve got a “two for one” deal. No, I’m speaking of the personal, emotional and moral support that her husband needs from her.  In reality, my life revolves around his.  My schedule is determined by his schedule.  Many times I must drop what I’m doing in order to help him.  I’ll be the first to admit that is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes I get frustrated.  This is probably more of an issue for those preachers with their office in the home.  However, even with the frustrations, I would much rather be with my husband, giving him the knowledge and security that “we are in this together.”

I am reminded of the New Testament characters – Aquila and Priscilla.  Whenever they are mentioned in the New Testament, their names are always together.  They made tents together, they labored with Paul together, together they hosted Paul in their home for an extended length of time, they fled Rome together, they worshiped together, they studied with other people together, and together they opened their home to the local congregation for a place to worship.  When I think of all that they did for the cause of Christ, I also think of the work Priscilla must have done “behind the scenes”.

As preacher’s wives, each of us has the opportunity to share our husband’s life in a very unique way. We have the opportunity to be his sounding board, his confidant, his shoulder to cry on, and the list goes on. What greater service could we be to our husbands and to God than working by their side for the kingdom’s sake?

 

January 7th, 2012|Categories: The Preacher's Wife|Tags: |5 Comments

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Friday’s Reflections: Becoming a Preacher’s Wife

When I was 9 or 10 years old I wrote a paragraph for a school assignment, in which I described what I thought my life would be like in 20 years.  I wrote that I wanted to marry a missionary and have 3 or 4 children. I grew up as a preacher’s kid and so I could not imagine life any other way.  Being part of a “preacher’s family” was what I knew and I was comfortable there. Like most families in our congregation, my parents struggled to make ends meet, yet we never lacked for things we really needed (1 Tim. 6:8). There were so many blessings our family enjoyed because of my Dad being a preacher.  Being a preacher’s kid also had its challenges, but I’ll save that for another day.

Fast forward a few years, when I married my best friend, George Jensen. I wanted this verse read during our wedding ceremony “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge…” (Ruth 1:16).  I knew I would follow him, but where, I knew not. Before we were married, George attended an evening Bible school for a couple of years and he preached occasionally, filling in when needed at different congregations in the area.  He worked full time as an electrician, but he began to struggle with the time required for his secular job versus the time he needed and wanted to devote to the increasing number of sermons he was preparing. About seven months after we married, George decided to attend the East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions. We raised the needed support, moved to Tennessee, and began school in February of 1986.  No longer was I a “preacher’s kid”, but I had become a preacher’s wife.

Preacher’s wives come to the role in various ways.  Perhaps your husband was already a preacher when you met him, and so you knew you were marrying a preacher.  Maybe you were married already and somewhere down the road your husband made the decision that he wanted to turn his sights towards preaching full-time. Regardless of the circumstances, it is very important that you be at peace with it.  If not, life will be miserable for both you and your husband.

When each of us made the decision to marry, hopefully we understood that we were agreeing to be a help-meet.  That is a Bible truth that applies to each wife, regardless of the husband’s occupation.  If our husband’s passion is to preach the gospel,  then we ought to want to help him be the most effective worker for the Lord. The life of a preacher’s family is not always easy.  Sometimes it’s difficult – very difficult. But as a preacher’s wife, we must determine that we are going to be an asset to him, rather than a liability.  Hopefully our husbands will be better because of us, and not in spite of us.  In reality, this is true of any marriage, is it not?  Being a help-meet to my husband is what I do, because I want to serve Him, and him. I can’t think of any place that I’d rather be.

How did you become a preacher’s wife?  I’d love to hear your story!

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 I’d love for us to work together on being better preacher’s wives.  If you are not a preacher’s wife, of course you are welcome here too!  Perhaps this will provide some insight as to what it’s like being a preacher’s wife.

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December 30th, 2011|Categories: The Preacher's Wife|Tags: , |0 Comments

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Reflections for the Preacher’s Wife

I’ve been giving some thought to doing a blog series over the next few weeks on the Preacher’s wife.  Being the wife of a preacher brings a life full of blessings.  However, with those blessings also come some extra responsibilities and stresses.  It is interesting to note that there are no specific biblical instructions or commands for preacher’s wives. They have the same responsibilities as every other Christian woman.  However, without a doubt there are commands that do apply to her, and her obedience or disobedience will either help or harm her husband’s work.

I would love to hear your input.  Is there a particular aspect of life as a preacher’s wife you would like to be addressed?  These are the related topics I have come up with so far:

  • Hospitality
  • Encouraging Your Preacher
  • Friendships
  • Preacher’s Kids
  • Was I Hired Too?
  • Guard Your Tongue
  • Are You an Asset or a Hindrance?
  • Learning to Say No

If you have other ideas, let me know and I’ll do my best to address them.

Have a wonderful week!

 

December 27th, 2011|Categories: The Preacher's Wife|Tags: , |4 Comments

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